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Software

The Care and Feeding of Open Source Software 174

An anonymous reader writes "You might find The Care and Feeding of FOSS (Free Open Source Software) interesting. This article debunks a lot of the myths and misunderstandings about the open-source software development process."
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The Care and Feeding of Open Source Software

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  • The real reson (Score:5, Insightful)

    by j_heisenberg ( 464756 ) * on Sunday January 02, 2005 @11:26AM (#11238168)
    ... FOSS has flourished in recent years is a tiny nuicance up in Seattle. Microsoft crushed (almost) all competitors in their main markets, OSes, productivity suits and browsers. The only way to avoid this fate was to produce free software, using the same tactic MS has employed.

    Another explanation would be: A lot of highly trained, intelligent and creative people have rather dull jobs, maintaining or servicing existing technology. They want to "realize their potential", and they do open source.
    • Re:The real reson (Score:3, Informative)

      by Decaff ( 42676 )
      ... FOSS has flourished in recent years is a tiny nuicance up in Seattle.

      So tiny that Balmer spents a considerable amount of time each year flying out to meet governments and institutions in an effort to persuade them not to migrate to Linux.

      Microsoft crushed (almost) all competitors in their main markets, OSes,

      Microsoft has failed to control or dominate the server market, and is experiencing strong competition from Linux.

      productivity suits

      I don't see Open Office being crushed.

      and browsers.

      Erm
      • I don't see Open Office being crushed.

        OpenOffice only exists in its current state because of the good graces of Sun and StarOffice. Where would it be had Sun not built (read paid for) StarOffice first, then broke off OpenOffice?

        • So? It still exists, b/c Sun realizes the benefits it gets from having an open source fork. And let's not forget AbiWord ...
        • OpenOffice only exists in its current state because of the good graces of Sun and StarOffice. Where would it be had Sun not built (read paid for) StarOffice first, then broke off OpenOffice?

          So? How is this relevant? It's still a strong competitor in the Office market.

          You could just as well say 'Microsoft Office only exists in its current state because of the good graces of Microsoft'.
          • So? How is this relevant? It's still a strong competitor in the Office market.

            Yes it is. And I hope it makes huge gains. But my comment speaks directly to the main article, 'The care and feeding of Open Source'.
            Where would OO.o be today without intial care and feeding from Sun?

            • Re:The real reson (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Decaff ( 42676 )
              Yes it is. And I hope it makes huge gains. But my comment speaks directly to the main article, 'The care and feeding of Open Source'.

              I see what you mean. However, I was replying to the post that said that Microsoft has 'crushed all competition'.

              Where would OO.o be today without intial care and feeding from Sun?

              Not very far. Which is why the 'Sun is as bad as Microsoft' attitude which is common on Slashdot is so wrong. Sun has provided one of the killer apps for desktop Linux.
        • Actually, didn't Sun buy StarOffice first, then open it?
      • Re:The real reson (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ThogScully ( 589935 )
        The grandparent talked about the recent successes of FOSS and attributed them to a greater need over the last few years.

        You started your reply seemingly to show him he's wrong by limiting your response to discussion of the last year or two and showing off the recent successes of FOSS.

        His point wasn't that there aren't good alternatives. His point was that if you look back further than a few years, MS did eliminate the competition in many realms. The alternatives you list now are a result of that.
        -N
        • You started your reply seemingly to show him he's wrong by limiting your response to discussion of the last year or two and showing off the recent successes of FOSS.

          No. Microsoft has been trying to dominate the server market for years, and has never succeeded. The competitors in that market have changed (with Linux replacing Unixes and proprietary systems), but Microsoft has remained just another player.
          • Microsoft has been trying to dominate the server market for years, and has never succeeded.

            In specific server markets MS dominates completely. They basically have the same enterprise market share (in a much larger market) that Novell once enjoyed, and even though they are losing slowly in this market they will remain a key player for at least two upgrade cycles. In the Internet server market MS has always been an also ran, and what share they have is doomed.

            • In specific server markets MS dominates completely.

              There is no such market (at least that I know of). Microsoft competes with Linux at the low end (where Microsoft has a significant presence), and Unix + Linux + other Oses at the high end (where Microsoft has few sales).

              They basically have the same enterprise market share (in a much larger market) that Novell once enjoyed,

              Actually, Novell is still enjoying a share of this market - it just has not grown as fast as Microsoft and others.
      • Umm, I think the grandparent was referring to the reasons why FOSS is taking off, not the reslts of its taking off (ie, describing cause, not effect.)
        • Umm, I think the grandparent was referring to the reasons why FOSS is taking off, not the reslts of its taking off (ie, describing cause, not effect.)

          The parent (which is what I was replying to) was making assertions I felt needed correcting, for example that 'FOSS is a tiny nuisance in Seattle'.
    • Re:The real reson (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      FOSS existed WAY before commercial softaware existed. the FIRST computers were FOSS.

      it was greedy asshat's like Gates and company that turned free and open source into a dirty secret.

      and the closed source thing was not common until the mid 80's I remember getting my very first IBM-PC and it came with the sourcecode to the bios in the back of the manual.

      FOSS is simply taking back what was the norm for computing when it started. it's not bored people, it's people that know what is right and are doing w
      • The source to the BIOS may have been available (although that's not my recollection) but it certainly wasn't free -- Phoenix went through a fair amount of work to create their "clean-room" implementation of that BIOS, and even then there were issues with non-IBM PC's, due to the lack of the tape BASIC ROM (which, AFAIK, was never duplicated) in the clones.

        Furthermore, WordStar was never open, WordPerfect was never open, Magic Wand, Electric Pencil, CP/M...the world of software was not a free software garde

      • Re:The real reson (Score:3, Informative)

        by akc ( 207721 )
        Your horizons don't extend far enough back in time. It wasn't Gates who started commercial software.

        I did a number of projects on PDP 11s in the late 1970's and early 1980s and often had to buy software for it. In one instance I remember paying £3000 for a Pascal compiler. In another, I paid a similar amounts for both a Unix System V licence and for Emacs.

        By the beginning of the 1980's independent database vendors such as Oracle were selling software (our company competed for a while with similar
        • Hell, even here on slashdot, people still think we are talking about zero-cost software.

          That 1970's software often included the source code. I certainly remember the basic interpreter on our school's first computer came with an entire printout of the source code (it was assembler). There was also the source code to the assembler. The first company I worked for sold CP/M software that came with the entire source code (the FinalWord word processor, also called Mince and Scribble). In all these cases the soft
          • I know some source was around, I used to use RSX-11M which did a compilation from source as part of the system generation, and used it to debug a memory leak as late as 1985.

            But all (apart from possibly the unix packages - I can't remember) that I mention did NOT have source.
            • You said "I did a number of projects on PDP 11s in the late 1970's and early 1980s and often had to buy software for it."

              You did not say ".. and often software did not have source code with it". You said "...and often had to buy software for it".

              Please explain why I should not conclude that you think open source / FOSS means free of cost to you.

        • "In another, I paid a similar amounts for both a Unix System V licence and for Emacs."

          You paid money for Emacs?

          Do you know if RMS got any of that?
          • Re:The real reson (Score:5, Interesting)

            by cammoblammo ( 774120 ) <cammoblammo@NospaM.gmail.com> on Sunday January 02, 2005 @09:50PM (#11241132)
            IIRC, Emacs was around in it's ancestral form long before RMS started the GNU project. It was a collection of macros that fit on top of a particular editor, which was, as I recall, collated by RMS and others. There were commercial versions of this, or at least free-as-in-beer-you-pay-for.

            When RMS decided to start GNU, the first thing he did was a complete rewrite of Emacs based on the earlier versions. This was licensed under the predecessor of the GPL, the Emacs Public License (or something like that.)

            Again, this is working from memory, so don't trust the details, but I think this might explain where Emacs fits into the Free Software scheme of things. Please, anyone, feel free to correct me!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 02, 2005 @11:26AM (#11238169)
    they need care and feeding aswell
    ideology behind open source is nice of course, but some of us have to make living by writing code
    open source isn't always the solution for everything
    • by DrLZRDMN ( 728996 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @11:34AM (#11238190)
      Do we need to make a living writing code? If you are a hobiest programmer than no. There are other ways to make money such as selling hardware, support, or installation services. You are also assuming that open source programmers neveer getg paid, this is not true either.
      • by Feztaa ( 633745 )
        Are you a hobiest? Does that mean you're the most hobi? I think you mean "hobbyist".

        (eagerly awaiting the day that somebody calls himself a "hobbeast").
      • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @12:18PM (#11238314)
        True, some do get paid for their direct FOSS efforts. But that is by far the minority.

        Let's take a current project. GIMP, for instance. A viable competitor/alternative to PaintshopPro (not Photoshop). Where could the GIMP today be if there could be a dedicated team of fulltime developers? i.e. people getting paid to create and update GIMP, and nothing more.

        One of the reasons GIMP is gaining popularity is because it is free as in beer. Not because it is an especially 'good' or easy to use tool, but it costs nothing to use. (Don't get me wrong, GIMP is fantastic at what it does and how it was built). Most people don't actually care about the philosophy behind FOSS. GPL? Whazzat?

        For a tool such as GIMP, selling hardware, support, and installation doesn't work. Those income generators work at the corporate level, not the personal level. So how could the GIMP team get paid for producing GIMP (or similar level tools/programs)? Is it possible to do?

        How many FOSS tools could move off the '0.0.2 alpha' stage if there was a team of fulltime developers that could also actually eat while doing it?

        • for something like there's stuff that still "works", doing modifications on contract or something like that.

          wasn't there a film gimp, that some film studios have put money/time into directly to get features they want?

          donate if you want, or use shareware or other payware if you'd think that they will give you the better software in 10 years time.

          look at paintshop pro if you want to look what gimp could be with fulltime paid developers(note, i have no idea if gimp actually has some, in some firm, churning
        • Most people don't actually care about the philosophy behind FOSS. GPL? Whazzat?

          Yes, but most people care even less about paying hundreds of bucks for buggy software that is vulnerable to viruses, with EULAs out the wazoo and built-in obsolescence.

          The reason why proprietary software is so popular in people's homes (I'm not talking about corporations) is because 1) They don't really have a choice. They use what comes with the computer they bought or 2) they just copy it for free from some computer savvy
    • But if you're suggesting that you can't make a living writing open-source software, you're wrong.

      I'm a webmaster, and my customers get their websites delivered with full source. (And no documentation! now if that isn't open-source... :p) I bet most webmasters work the same way. Now I don't think you want to argue that we don't make any money...

      The way I see it is that you can make money writing software, be it closed or open, as long as it's custom software. Commodity software is a different story - you c
      • The analogy doesn't really work though, because you're a contractor giving the source code and final product to the company (or individual) that hired you. You aren't putting the source code up on your website for free download where everyone has the ability to take it and do what they want with it. If you did that, then neither you nor the person who hired you is going to be very happy. Not to mention the fact that websites really are all custom made. That's the entire point of a website. This being the ca
        • What analogy? The point is that those who get the software, also get the source code, and that they are allowed to do whatever they want with it, just like with open-source [opensource.org] software.

          I can make money off the software because it is custom software. If the customer wanted some commodity software (perhaps a CMS), then they could get it for free or for a price I wouldn't be willing to develop it for. If I wrote custom accounting systems instead of websites (which I will likely do this year), the same would be t
          • To quote:
            "The point is that those who get the software, also get the source code, and that they are allowed to do whatever they want with it"

            This is exactly how any software company works. How often do you think the actual programmer keeps the rights to the software that they write when working for a company? Now, when your company gets the source code for the software, I seriously doubt that they are going to release that source code on the internet or by any means for that matter, effectively making that
            • ``This is exactly how any software company works. How often do you think the actual programmer keeps the rights to the software that they write when working for a company?''

              Ah, I see. What you missed is that I develop software for customers, not employers. This means I retain the copyright. In addition to that, I grant the customer full rights to the code as well.

              The difference between that and working for them is that I can use the same software in another project. This reduces development time and bored
              • and i think you missed his point. you could get more billable hours if you gave up your rights to re-use the code. most companies that outsource will not allow the consultant to keep his work done ofr hire. if you have managed to do this so far, you are either very new to the business, or have found a niche that you can leverage to your advantage.

                now... according to the article, if you have something very re-usable, you can keep your limited niche, or you can go oss and leverage the work of others for y
            • Why would they want to pay for software to be developed that would become freely available to anyone else who chooses to use it?

              A lot of companies do this---most notably Linux distributors. IBM does it, Sun does it, and so do a whole raft of other companies.

              The idea is that the gain they get from improvements is greater than the loss they potentially take due to making the code available to the competition. If it's a GPL type licence, there's also the added extra that if the competition use those improv

    • by saigon_from_europe ( 741782 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @12:20PM (#11238332)
      You are missing the point. Instead of fruitles multiplication of people doing the same job, now we can code things that are really different.

      I used to work in company that produced wireless routers (for our internal usage only; unfortunately we never reached the stage to sell them). They were based on Linux. In propriatery world, we would have to buy licence for OS. Then, we would be limited in changes we could made to them. And many many related things (no documentation, no source of drivers...). Company with 3 developers would have no chance to make anything similar.

      So what is the point: Instead to write OS from the scratch; to write drivers and similar things we used existing free technology. My main task was to write bash scripts, to patch kernel and similar. Other guy wrote sofware for automated control.

      Basically, we did not try to reinvent flowerpot hole (i.e. writing something that already exists), we focused on new value - i.e. things that were specific for own company.

      I can say, without FOSS, what we tried to do would be totaly impossible. In this case, FOSS created 10 new jobs.

      (Unfortunately, they lasted only one year, but it was not related to FOSS.)

      In more general terms, FOSS enables you to move from general things to company specific things. All companies calculate taxes same way - but many many companies have their own in house built software for that. At the other side, there are no two same companies with exactly same business logic. FOSS, in theory at least, allows you to spare resources from coding tax logic (common tasks) and to transfer them to coding support for your business logic (specific taks).

      To be honest, this happens also in propriatery world. SAP has same tools for all companies, but their (expensive) consultants will (hopefuly) customize their software for your own needs.
      • Exactly! What a concept?! Cooperation instead of savage competition...

        Who'd have thought that you could built something that works that way?
      • I used to work in company that produced wireless routers (for our internal usage only; unfortunately we never reached the stage to sell them). They were based on Linux. In propriatery world, we would have to buy licence for OS. Then, we would be limited in changes we could made to them. And many many related things (no documentation, no source of drivers...). Company with 3 developers would have no chance to make anything similar.

        I am not sure that a company that never got a product to market is the best
    • Well, the last time I looked (admittedly, a couple or so years ago), the major portion of software spending (80% - 90%) was on bespoke and vertical market applications which seem to be completely ignored by the article. (That is, the article concentrates on horizontal products such as OSes, word processors, programming systems; e.g.: languages and DBMSes.)
      While it's true that a large amount of this is taken by such items as military, aerospace, and big enterprise systems, there is still a large body of sma
      • bespoke and vertical market applications which seem to be completely ignored by the article

        Actually they are briefly mentioned as "software that has no commercial viability" and then pretty much ignored for the rest of the article other than as the "FOSS corner case".

    • I'm getting sick of this repetitive FUD by anonymous posters modded up. Probably marketing 'droids.

      Forget philosophies. FOSS is simple statistics. With 6,000,000,000+ [census.gov] people in the world and widely used software it is a statistical certainty that somebody somewhere will have both the means and motivation to write good software. And when one person writes it millions of people can use it. Open source software and commoditisation is simply supply-and-demand and the market in action.

      ---

      DRM - Democracy Re

  • It's Not? (Score:5, Funny)

    by sugapablo ( 600023 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @11:28AM (#11238172) Homepage
    "Free Open-Source Software is not the brainchild of latter-day hippies, nor is it the doom of Western commerce."

    It's not?!?

    Damn!
  • Be honest (Score:5, Funny)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @11:38AM (#11238198) Journal
    Why not just be honest about what OSS is? Its the Star trek ideals in software form. I scratch your back, you scratch mine and we improve the world (Universe).

    Theres no need to explain it as anything more then that to non-geeks.
  • by TheRealJFM ( 671978 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @11:46AM (#11238221) Homepage Journal
    "the FOSS era is inevitable for operating systems."

    if we look at this historically, isn't Microsoft already dead?

    certainly this article makes it clear that Linux may well enter a stage where it is an accepted standard, and has crushed the previous groups.

    in a way, isn't that what Microsoft already did? they were once the upstart defeating the giants of IBM and Apple. history repeats itself.

    I certainly don't think we'll see the death of MS for decades, if ever, but we may just see them seriously reduced

    this article certainly provides a good explanation for that, in my opinion anyway - it seems pretty clear cut. perhaps someone can refute that?

    i'd be interested to hear ideas...
    • if we look at this historically, isn't Microsoft already dead?

      Every business and society is mortal (and already dead) from a historical perspective. It may be valid, but is generally not useful - and can even be a somewhat poisonous world view.

    • I certainly don't think we'll see the death of MS for decades, if ever, but we may just see them seriously reduced

      This is what I'm hoping to see. I don't want Microsoft dead, I want them deflated. I want them in a position where any closed source, patented extentions to accepted industry standards or trying to lock thier customers in to an Microsoft only world would be to thier detrement. I want Microsoft in a position where have to follow the rest of the industry, to only stand on the technical merits of
  • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @11:49AM (#11238229)
    But I dont think FOSS goes further than step 4. Its already apparent from the server OS market. FOSS is never going to completely dominate. Its main effect is to take out all the small/medium players and polarize the market into FOSS and the commercial giants which is unfortunate because the smaller commercial endeavours are where (as far as I can see) most of the innovation tends to come from. FOSS also tends to lag behind the technology curve so by the time it starts to mature the market has moved on, creating new options for commercial software so FOSS will constantly be chasing a moving target.
    • But I dont think FOSS goes further than step 4. Its already apparent from the server OS market. FOSS is never going to completely dominate.

      The OS market -- server or otherwise -- is a bad example, because it's just too young. BSD has been around long enough to have had a good shot, but its legal status was clouded for some crucial years, and its license has deterred the sort of industry contribution that has accelerated Linux development in the last few years. Linux, on the other hand, is only 14 years

    • by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @12:29PM (#11238385) Homepage
      Its main effect is to take out all the small/medium players and polarize the market into FOSS and the commercial giants which is unfortunate because the smaller commercial endeavours are where (as far as I can see) most of the innovation tends to come from

      Maybe a more positive way to view this is that FOSS commoditizes markets that are way overpriced. This is especially true of:

      * Compilers and software development tools.
      * Operating Systems
      * Productivity suites
      * Web servers & Application servers
      * e-Mail services

      Now even the tiniest organizations can use FOSS to gain an advantage. I was able to start a regional online advertising network for less than $500 by using a commercial, open source ad manager that I've retooled to fit my needs.

      FOSS also tends to lag behind the technology curve so by the time it starts to mature the market has moved on, creating new options for commercial software so FOSS will constantly be chasing a moving target.

      I have got to disagree with this on many, many levels. A great many of the innovations you take for granted now were invented via FOSS (try basically, the internet as a platform, web browser, email, etc). FOSS has nothing to do with commercial or not. It's about the app coming with the source with rights to modify (oss) or source + right to mod + right to redistribute (free). There are plenty of commercial apps that are oss. There are also commercial apps that are Free as in speech. I think what you are comparing, is for example, OpenOffice vs. MS Office, which compares a commercial closed source with a semi-commercial FOSS one. Even so, OpenOffice has capabilities that MS office does not and MS Office has capabilies that Open Office does not. The technology curve is more of a 3d wave than a 2d curve - it's possible to lead in one area and follow in another.

      Don't assume that because an application is FOSS that it is somehow inferior to a closed source product.
      • ...and especially for software houses, or beginning coders, foss let's them start developing with high quality compilers and ide's without paying arm and leg.

        so if you got an innovative idea you have FREE TOOLS to make it happen.

      • Don't assume that because an application is FOSS that it is somehow inferior to a closed source product.

        To me, it seems that people often get that impression because with most OSS, you can see the development.

        They release 0.x versions to the public, you see the app evolved from a buggy and featureless start up to a release 1.0 version (ie. Firefox).

        With commercial software, all the development phase is hidden and it seems to everybody that a finalized product just appeared from nowhere while in fact
  • Too deterministic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Staplerh ( 806722 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @12:00PM (#11238248) Homepage
    The article is interesting, and its nice to see an interpretation I had never thought of before, but another poster was right when he mentioned the Marxist angle to this particular interpretation.

    Open Source software is simply too new to establish a model for this to follow - there are many different models that could be followed, and it is simply too deterministic.

    The Marxist connection jumped right out at me, from this one quotation in the article.

    The hard-core FOSS advocates would like to go directly from Stage 1 (Innovation) to Stage 6 (The FOSS Era) and skip the whole commercial part. They argue that proprietary software ownership is undesirable at best, and immoral or unethical at the worst.

    But ignores capitalism and human nature, and the economic forces that help fund and drive the creative process in Western society. In spite of fundamental differences between software and brick-and-mortar industries, software follows the same first four phases of the lifecycle.


    Come now, this sounds exactly like Marxism.. It is interesting that there has never been a self declared communist state in the world - they were always going through the SOCIALIST stage of the model. The article is essentially saying that they should follow a gradual evolution of ideas, but that is inevitable.

    Determinism is dangerous to use in this context - you can't just sit by and wait for Open Source. 'Lifecycle' my ass.
    • Let me see if I've got this right. Since he argues that proprietary software ownership is not in itself unethical ...

      ... he is a Marxist?!?

      • I would argue that he had a Marxist approach, yes, with his stages and arguments that supposed 'hard-core' advocates of Open Source software were trying to skip stages 2 - 5 and arrive at stage 6.

        My argument may not have been as clear as it should have been, but I believe there is a strong connection btw. the marxist approach (esp. with respects to communists trying to skip stages 2 - 5 [bourgois]).
    • There are other mistakes in the article as well.

      For example it mentions that operating systems have not been OSS for much of their lifecycle - this is not quite true.

      Original Unix was developed in OSS fashion, as was numerous code for Z80-style microcomputers. I am sure I a missing a lot :)

      Also Stage 1: invention is often started in academic community in precisely OSS fashion.

      GPL is simply a legal tool to protect the right to create and is an outcome of an era when one must ask for a license before hum

  • Stage 5 Today (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mikey573 ( 137933 ) * on Sunday January 02, 2005 @12:02PM (#11238251) Homepage

    Some current Stage 5 situation: (FOSS community begins to slowly but inexorably erode the technical lead held by the commercial offerings)

    WS_FTP [ipswitch.com] --> Filezilla [sourceforge.net]
    Winzip [winzip.com] --> 7-zip [7-zip.org]

    I'd be interested in seeing what factors it takes to push the above into Stage 6 (FOSS version dominates).

    • You forgot WordPress [wordpress.org].

      Moveable Type [moveabletype.com] --> WordPress [wordpress.org]

      Although I think WordPress is almost or at Stage 6.

      For more info see this blog: http://www.elise.com/web/a/an_overview_of_the_webl og_tools_market.php [elise.com]

      In August, WordPress had 4% market share of the blogging software community, whereas Moveable Type had 7%. Yes, I realize that Blogger (at 30%) and LiveJournal (at 23%) are the reigning kings, but I'm speaking of software you can install and host yourself; both Blogger and LiveJournal are hosted servi
    • OSS can also get some mindshare other ways than software (or at least conventional software running on people's PCs).

      Just thing of Wikipedia.
    • WS_FTP --> Filezilla , Winzip --> 7-zip, I'd be interested in seeing what factors it takes to push the above into Stage 6 (FOSS version dominates).

      How about the integration of many superior and excellent parts that closed source software can never match? As an example following yours, I give you Konqueror which integrates local file management with the features of the above utilities and more. By using free archive software and free networking software all the functions above are folded into a si

  • by glennrrr ( 592457 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @01:05PM (#11238563)
    1) He doesn't seem aware that Mac OS X is a Unix derivative (more so than Linux). He firsts fails to include it in his list of popular commercial variants of Unix, and then he says that Linux will shortly be the only prominent Unix variant. I think most people think Mac OS X will be around longer than shortly, and it is the most widely used commercial Unix variant.

    2) He keeps calling it Macintosh, which is the general name for the hardware. The operating system is called Mac OS X.

    Other than that, an interesting enough article.
    • Excellent points, and my apologies to the Mac world. I used a Mac for many years (before OS X) and always thought it superior to the PC in almost every way, and I am a huge admirer of Apple for making the difficult and risky decision to abandon their original operating system and adopt OS X.

      Craig A. James
  • Can OSS survive? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nodehopper ( 839304 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @01:07PM (#11238575) Homepage
    I think this Article includes some points that I see developing.

    "Both FOSS and commercial versions may coexist, but commercial forces usually dominate the innovative process at this point."

    As Corporate America embraces the OSS culture it will take what was once an "IDEAL" and find ways of turning it into something that is good for the Corporation.

    I think a great example is in the Music Industry. A genre of music will develop in some obscure place creating something living and evolving and vibrant. Then the big record companies will discover it and then it starts. They milk it for every cent available until that great sound becomes lost in the watered down mass of "product" that they churn out. Soon the creative subculture has been bought and sold and cloned so many times it losses everything that was good about it. Could this be starting to happen with OSS. Red Hat has become a corporate entity. Suse is on it's way. When the cash offers becomes so large that OSS developers start to sweat and their knees get weak....will the "IDEAL" be enough any more? Will the culture survive or will it sell out?

    • When the cash offers becomes so large that OSS developers start to sweat and their knees get weak....will the "IDEAL" be enough any more? Will the culture survive or will it sell out?


      It will survive. This is why the GPL is so important: people can't "sell out". The liscence keeps them honest and their software fully Free. It is because of this protection that OSS cannot be fully co-opted by a corporate system of control.

  • by GebsBeard ( 665887 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @01:14PM (#11238622)
    I'm sure I'll get modded flamebait but this article strikes me as deluded. It assumes the following:

    1. The market leader once gaining dominance will just choose to gravy train their product, ala IE.

    2. The flow of new features goes from the commercial version to the FOSS version. The commercial entity apparently isn't capable of absorbing new features from the FOSS version.

    This is a crock. A commercial version can remain hyper competitive even in the face of the "FOSS onslaught". There are numerous tricks than be pulled. Obscure or constantly changing file formats (ie .doc), cross integration with other products such that the whole "web" must be replicated to be truly competitive. And let's face it, not all software is an OS. Or an Office suite or a web server. Especially complex client server products can have dozens or even hundreds of interoperating processes; this stuff is a nightmare to replicate. You may find these tactics unpopular or even unethical but that's just the way it works in the real world. Large successful companies can and do make it painful in the extreme to erode their market share. The author seems to ignore the economics of market dominance.

    • ...but FOSS folks make some pretty dumb moves that hamper their own success. Open Office isn't popular because of the cost. It isn't popular becuase it has a steeper learning curve than the next version of MS Office to an existing MS office user (i.e., everyone).

      Unfortunately, the OOo evangelists think their UI is superior, so they have no inclination to change...thus shooting themselves in the foot.

  • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @02:17PM (#11238948) Homepage
    I have to agree (mostly) with the author's conclusions (or at least the ones I didn't ignore :-)). However, I disagree with the reasoning.

    FOSS dominance in most fields is inevitable. I'm not talking market share, I'm talking stable features. In a prorietary world, features cost money. Bug fixes cost money. Even worse than that, they cost resources (one can have money to do something, but not enough people to pay to do it).

    Currently, proprietary providers live with a difficult economic reality. They invest 10% of their expenses on R&D and require at least a 5% total profit. This means that you need a 10.5:1 return on R&D investment in order for a feature to be worthwhile. Since not all development works out, successful features need to be even more profitable.

    When you first start, there is lots of low hanging fruit and even a 20:1 return on R&D investment (what most VCs demand) is quite reasonable. As the product matures, features get more difficult and more and more of your R&D gets used up by support (bug fixes etc). Not only that, but by Brook's law we know that adding R&D resources slows things down (due to communication overhead). This means that's there's a practical maximum of resources that can be added to the project. At some point, development slows down to a crawl.

    FOSS, by nature of the fact that there isn't an expected return on R&D investment, runs into no such problem. In theory, there are infinite resources availble to the problem.
    If a feature is desired enough by someone, it will be implemented. The return on investment (benefit vs cost) only has to be worth it for *one* person. The benefit does not even have to be returned as money.

    Not only that, but FOSS operates in an evolutionary way. HUGE numbers of resources are expended on projects which yield no results (just check the abandoned projects on sourceforge). But it doesn't matter. Those people eventually migrate to the successful projects. If I develop A and then discover B is better, I can abandon A with no cost to myself. Eventually the more successful projects end up getting more and more resources.

    FOSS generally doesn't need to worry about Brook's law, because wasted effort is irrelevant. FOSS projects can afford *not* to communicate thereby duplicating effort. The popular version will win out and everyone can migrate with no loss (generally speaking) to themselves.

    That is why FOSS feature/stability dominance is inevitable (generally speaking). So why doesn't it always work that way? Well the first problem is recruitment. At the beginning, there may be many different competing projects. Until the consolidation period (in the author's paper), there may not be enough resources in any one project to compete with a proprietary provider's VC backed investment. This is not always the case. A good example where FOSS was *way* ahead of the curve is window managers. I think most people would concede that OSX temporarily tipped the balance, but not for long.... FOSS dominance is inevitable. Good ideas will be copied, bad ideas abandoned and new ideas will be forthcoming.

    The other area where FOSS does not dominate is in projects where there isn't enough interest to do development. Word processors used to be a good example. Nobody wrote one because nobody used one. Now there's are a few groups of people with a bee in their bonnet about office suites. Given enough time, most areas will probably be dominated by FOSS. They may lag behind the curve, though, if developers don't see the reasoning early enough.

    Finally (whew!), feature/stability dominance != market dominance. I personally don't agree that IIE *ever* had feature dominance over Apache. However, market share is market share. The thing about FOSS, though, is that it never goes away. You can try to kill it, but it will just resurface a year later. With proprietary software, all you have to do is cripple or buy the producer. With FOSS, you are faced with the prospect of a never ending propoganda program (making your product even *more* expensive).

    The *only* way for proprietary companies to successfully compete against FOSS is to make FOSS illegal. We need to be vigilant.

    • You seem to think developing FOSS is somehow free (as in beer). That's only true if the developer's time costs no money.

      Sure it's free if the developer is a hobbyist, but remember hobbyist developers can just as easily develop closed software.

      So your whole argument breaks down. Abandoned projects on SourceForge costs millions in lost time. My time is pretty valuable. If yours is not I have a job for you. You can do it in your free time!

      The article basically states that in software markets where there is
  • Civil Rights (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @02:23PM (#11238976) Homepage
    Listening to the most dedicated FOSS advocates, one could easily imagine the speaker was talking of civil rights, war protests, or women's suffrage.

    No imagination necessary: that's exactly what we're talking about. Only the enemy has changed: domineering big business instead of a domineering government.
  • I RTFA'd a couple of times but I couldn't get P2P software to fit anywhere in his lifecycle. Infact, it seems to completely fly in the face of his arguments.

    Is there something wierd going on with P2P software? The MPAA/RIAA induced arms race perhaps?
    • 1. sharing is invented. ftp. ppp. bbs. web.
      2. expansion happens. ftp bots. scp. rsyns. napster.
      3. consolidation. napster, ftp, scp die. other propriatary p2p apps keep going. gnutella pulls a lot of supprort, www keeps going. bittorrent is a new idea, but pulls in and gets some supprot which will soon be pulled together with more secure tech. gnunet gets started based on p2p with security in mind.
      4. maturity in a few years. secure p2p. gnunet. oss and private companiest that use propriety protocol
    • P2P is in the 5th step of his model. I.e. there's no more money to be made in P2P so closed source houses do not really care about it anymore.

      P2P is still very young (technically) but it's mature from a business, can-we-make-money-from-this perspective.
  • That's a laugh! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bjarne Bula ( 11937 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @03:49PM (#11239380)
    It's kind of hard to take an author seriously who writes

    "Besides being portable, Unix happened to be the best operating system invented to date. Its kernel, its unified file/IO system, its security model, and its "shell" were all major advances. Unix quickly pushed aside almost all other operating systems."

    That's a laugh! UNIX certainly stole a bunch of good ideas from MULTICS, and did invent a few, but "the best operating system invented to date"? That's just ludicrous.

    If AT&T had sat on it, UNIX would have gone nowhere. They key innovation of UNIX was not technical, quite the opposite. What made UNIX what it was (and is) was "open source". AT&T Labs made the UNIX source code available with few restrictions to universities and researchers, and this is what made UNIX great.

    Anyone who has seen early UNIX versions will agree that it was, in all honesty, a fairly mediocre operating system. Then again, the very first Linux versions released were, again in all honesty, not much to write home about either.

    Since then UNIX (and Linux) has improved immensely on the technical side, but even today, UNIX/Linux is reinventing features of operating systems of the 1970s and '80s.

  • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Sunday January 02, 2005 @05:09PM (#11239770) Homepage Journal
    The hard-core FOSS advocates would like to go directly from Stage 1 (Innovation) to Stage 6 (The FOSS Era) and skip the whole commercial part. They argue that proprietary software ownership is undesirable at best, and immoral or unethical at the worst. ... And in the commercial corner is software that can never be FOSS. It might be encumbered by patents, or more likely, is sold as an adjunct to some piece of hardware, such as "embedded" software found in modern cars, printers, scanners, wrist watches, cell phones, and so forth.

    It is interesting that the author uses the unethical behavior of commercial software producers to say that free software advocates are wrong. Patents, FUD and other tricks the author mentions do not make commercial software more innovative.

    The second assertion above, that embedded software is not well served by free software is simply wrong. Embedded development has swung to free software in a big way, as commercial software there was expensive, buggy and had all the other problems of closed source. According to the Free Software Foundations' last newsletter, the majority of embedded developers now make use of free software, at least for development. They will soon make flexible tools that will dominate the embedded market. The same development model, which is more flexible for servers and desktops works for embedded projects too.

    The whole argument that closed source software provides swifter innovation is shaky. Many of the so called features are involve product lock in and other dirty tricks that cost you more in the long run. IBM and others are showing that you can develop free software faster than closed source and make a profit. The era of software development he looked at, where indeed many closed source projects were "innovative", is over. As he pointed out, many people lost lots of money in the closed source game and will be reluctant to risk it again. In short, the rush he saw was unsustainable and should not be used to judge the future. Software development itself has reached a Maturity phase where the tools needed are well known and available. Free software now has a combination of development, distribution and user tools that can not be matched by any single closed source thing. To say that rapid development MUST be closed source ignores the awesome and unmatched feature advancement going on with KDE, Gnome and others. It's somewhat insulting to say free software developers simply copy commercial junk.

    • i am an oss supporter... and I can think of only a few ideas that are in oss but not in commercial offerings already. those few ideas mainly relate to the development process and not the the product delivered. can you name some current oss ideas that are not already in the commercial world?
      • can you name some current oss ideas that are not already in the commercial world?

        The real benefit of free software is being able to chose what you want. I can think of a few places that are likely to have real innovation but I'm loath to offer specifics because some obscure package someplace may very well offer it. It's not like people can't very easily make their own version of any free program and sell it. The development problem will be making it as good as the free program when your resources are

        • darn :) i was hoping you were an idea man. one to bring true innovation to oss before commerce. i could use a new project. i like your answer, since we're saying the same thing.
  • software lifecycle (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jimboscott ( 845567 )
    Quote : Capitalism will continue to be a part of the software lifecycle as long as software is useful to society. It's a negative point of view, what if Capitalism is no longer usefull ?

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

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